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EmuDrama - Violations of SNES9x


SNES9x is a popular emulator - and commonly its license is violated.

By: Evan G
Last updated: December 18, 2015

SNES9x is a popular emulator, predominantly because it is fast, reasonably accurate, and can be ported to pretty much any system. As a result, it is commonly used for commercial works - something that is expressly prohibited by the license:

Permission to use, copy, modify and/or distribute Snes9x in both binary and source form, for non-commercial purposes, is hereby granted without fee, providing that this license information and copyright notice appear with all copies and any derived work.

Snes9x is freeware for PERSONAL USE only. Commercial users should seek permission of the copyright holders first. Commercial use includes, but is not limited to, charging money for Snes9x or software derived from Snes9x, including Snes9x or derivatives in commercial game bundles, and/or using Snes9x as a promotion for your commercial product.

The most notorious violation of SNES9x was the Retron 5. Only after a lot of badgering, did they release their source code, but it still violates the license since they did not get permission from the authors of snes9x.

The most recent case is the Bubsy Two-Fur release on Steam. They are basically selling the two Bubsy games released on the SNES with SNES9x. The company responsible for releasing this has said they contacted Jerremy Koot and Gary Henderson, the two original authors of SNES9x, and got their permission. This may be true, however, this is the list of people who have an ownership stake of the base SNES9x code (excluding coprocessor chips that are not needed for Bubsy):

  • Gary Henderson
  • Jerremy Koot
  • Matthew Kendora
  • Peter Bortas
  • Joel Yliluoma
  • John Weidman
  • funkyass
  • Brad Jorsch
  • Nach
  • zones
  • nitsuja
  • BearOso
  • OV2

So, even if they did get a hold of Koot and Henderson (claiming to have contacted Henderson is dubious - other SNES9x authors have not been able to for years), they are not the only people who have a stake in SNES9x. You would basically have to go back to a pre-1.39 build of SNES9x to get to the point where there was not a significant contribution by people other than the original two authors. I spoke with Nach and Matthew Kendora, and neither had been contacted by the company that put out Bubsy. The reason that SNES9x is portable is a result of the work done after the opening of the SNES9x code to outside developers in 2002.

In the end, though, what can be done? Although the authors of the emulators may be pissed, they do not have enough interest or resources to take legal action. I highly doubt that something like Bubsy is going to be a huge moneymaker. I doubt the Retron 5 was either. You would think it would be in the interest of these small video game companies to play nice with the enthusiast community, but they don't. In the end, this pattern will continue, and license violations will happen again, with little recourse.

Of course, it might be hypocritical of me to complain about copyright violations, since I have gone through prototypes of Bubsy on this very website. I really think that it would be better if both sides worked together. Imagine the goodwill that could have been brought about if the Bubsy team had gave away a lot of goodies to the classic gaming community, such as prototype versions of the game, information on the development of the game, and so on. I can only hope that this article will make clear the need for better communication.

© Evan G. This site made by a Canadian, and fueled by beer. Do not use material on this site without permission.